SAR Filipinos could play key role in vote

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 12:00am

Hong Kong's 180,000 Filipinos could play a decisive role in their country's 2004 presidential elections if they are allowed to vote in absentia, a group of visiting Philippine senators said yesterday.

A 30-member delegation was in the SAR to hold consultations on an absentee voting bill with Filipinos living locally.

The bill is expected to be enacted later this year in time for elections to choose the country's president, vice-president and half of the 24 senators.

There are 7.3 million Filipinos living abroad, comprising about 20 per cent of the country's 34 million electors, said Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate's committee on suffrage and electoral law.

'Overseas Filipinos are a potent constituency and therefore a significant swing vote that can decide the election,' he said.

Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel added: 'The usual voter turnout in Philippine national elections is about 20 to 30 million, so even if just 3.5 million voted among those based abroad, it is a big number.'

The right to absentee voting had long been overdue after it was enshrined in the Philippine constitution in 1987, according to the senators.

Indonesia, Thailand, and almost all Western democracies allow absentee voting.

The senators denied accusations that yesterday's public hearing was really a form of back-door electioneering ahead of the 2004 poll.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong had accused the legislators of using the occasion to promote their political ambitions.